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Ryan Oliver

He’s here!

Baby-Ryan-Arrives

Our sweet boy was born on April 17th at 39 weeks exactly. He surprised us all with a very quick labor! The past few weeks have been a blur of appointments and getting used to life with 2 kiddos. I’m still processing so many parts of his arrival and our postpartum experience- more to come later! For now, I’ll leave you with 3 things that surprised me after delivering:

  1. Olivia’s Size: Our “baby” girl is HUGE compared to her newborn brother. I think that she grew a foot taller and aged 5 years in the span of 1 afternoon. No joke!
  2. My Body: My constant prayer throughout this pregnancy was to carry Ryan to term. I was so incredibly grateful to have made it to Weeks 37-39. What a blessing! After delivering, I also realized how ready I was for this journey to be ending. This duality –desperately wanting to stay pregnant and also wanting my body back– surprised me.
  3. Reality of Beginnings: Transitions and growth phases are challenging! Even when things go perfectly, life can be a complicated, beautiful mess. We are in the thick of navigating curve balls that come with getting started on any journey (breastfeeding challenges, sleep deprivation, sibling jealousy, etc…). Once again, I’m surprised at how accurate this phrase continues to be: “The days are long, but the years are short (Gretchen Rubin).” Time has marched so slowly on the days filed with frequent preschooler meltdowns, endless nursing sessions, and general feelings of overwhelm. At the same time, I’m pinching myself that nearly 3 weeks have already gone by!
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Motivation Monday: Words to Live By #9

Nope, it’s not Monday. Best laid plans to have this post ready last week went askew. It’s been quiet on this blog for several months… Sharing this quote today as a reminder to myself…

Words-to-Live-By-Season-for-Everything

The past couple of months have seemed like a whirlwind! It’s been a season of:

  • Growing Pains: In more than 1 way! Our sweet girl has been testing boundaries and flexing her muscles of independence. She’s also growing physically stronger and taller every day. As for me? I’m so proud that my body has carried a precious human for close to 36 weeks! I’m in awe of how organs rearrange themselves and the body stretches to accommodate a new life. I won’t, however, miss the physical aches and pains of a normal pregnancy!
  • Sweet Moments: It seems like Olivia’s verbal skills have exploded. James remarked the other day, “It’s just a steady stream of dialogue!” I adore hearing her sweet voice and little conversations with her dolls. She gives the BEST hugs- I feel like she squeezes with her whole heart! And, when she spontaneously tells me “I Love You” — well, let’s just say that life doesn’t get any sweeter.
  • Waiting: We are waiting on sweet baby boy. Our wait has been filled with a few hiccups and anxieties. Around 29.5 weeks, our little one gave us a scare that landed me in the triage area of our local hospital. Fortunately, all is well and we are continuing to pray for a healthy, full-term delivery. I am constantly reminding myself to replace my fears with faith.
  • Baby Kicks: This pregnancy has been so different than my first. Baby boy has been so active!
  • Progesterone Shots: I feel fortunate to be working with an amazing team committed to my prenatal and postnatal care. They’ve been monitoring my hormone levels closely due to my history of preterm labor. So far, I’ve had 82 injections (!!!) of progesterone. I have a separate post coming on this ordeal… but, let me tell you, my mama heart goes out to anyone who has had to supplement their hormones with injections. It is not a fun or easy process.
  • Building My Business: Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of really focusing on building my essential oil team and empowering families with natural health options. I absolutely love teaching and sharing practical tips to help support wellness.
  • Designing: I’m still designing for Snap Click Supply Company and love the creative outlet that this position offers. Are you following their Facebook page? I just shared a darling banner, perfect for Easter.
  • Renovating: We’ve tackled 3 (yes, 3!!) fairly large home projects since September. More updates to come about how we built a large kitchen corner storage cabinet, transformed my office, and remodeled the laundry room. My goal for these projects was to create more functional space for our family.

I miss writing and hope to have a more regular voice in this space sometime soon. In the meantime, I’m embracing the season of growth that I’m currently navigating.

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Happy Halloween 2015

Our little pumpkin is going to be a big sister next April!

Pregnancy-Announcement-Pumpkin-Patch

More to come on this upcoming adventure! Happy Halloween!

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World Prematurity Awareness Day

November 17th is World Prematurity Awareness Day.  The March of Dimes currently states that 1 out of 9 women will deliver prematurely in the United States.  I am now part of that statistic.

World Prematurity Awareness Day

Today, I’m thinking of all the sweet babies that are literally fighting to breathe and grow as quickly as they can.  I’m humbled by their strength and beautiful spirits.  I am thinking of all the mamas that have had to wait to hold their sweet blessings for days or weeks all the while trying to manage a complex constellation of feelings ranging from fear to grief to amazement.

I am feeling especially grateful today for all the prayers from dear family and friends about Olivia’s health.  We are so blessed.

To read more about our journey, visit the Preemie Archives.

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Gender Reveal Party: Decorations

Almost exactly at this time last year, our sweet family was celebrating a healthy report from my Week 19 ultrasound. James and I found out the gender of our growing babe on September 20th and shared the big news with close friends and family the following day at a big gender reveal party. I promised a full report on our celebration in this Pregnancy Update post…. here’s the full scoop!

Decorations:

A classic green and yellow color scheme adorned our dessert table, as well as gorgeous fresh flowers. I couldn’t have asked for more beautiful lilies or roses in honor of my sweet Olivia.

Flowers-for-Gender-Reveal

On our dessert table featured mini cheesecakes, green and yellow candies, green grape caramel treats, and a beautiful layered cake from a local bakery.  A cluster of pom-poms in varying shades of green and white hung from the ceiling framing this focal area.

Dessert-Table

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My mom and I teamed up together to embellish festive lollipops, which also served as favors for our guests.  We used scalloped and circle punches, patterned paper, and cute rubber stamps to finish the look.

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To go along with our amazing layered cake, I served milk-tinis for dessert!

Milk-tinis

Our bar area featured my manzanita branch tree, which was decorated with star mirrors, chandelier ornaments, and clusters of small white flowers.

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And, finally, I found these incredible lanterns from Pier1 to display on our patio.  Our friends and family gathered outside amid candlelight for the actual moment of the reveal- these beauties created just the perfect ambiance!

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***A big thank you to Kurtis Hall for capturing these gorgeous images.***

Click Here to Read Part 2: Activities and Reveal Moment

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Marking 33 Weeks and 4 Days.

I was pregnant for exactly 33 weeks and 4 days.

32-Weeks-6-days-Pregnant

Today, Olivia is 33 weeks and 4 days old.

7-Months-Olivia

So many mixed emotions running through my mind today…

Olivia has been outside as long as she was safely tucked away inside my tummy. It’s crazy how quickly this much time has passed…although I can still vividly recall the feelings of fear, shock, failure, and overwhelm as we realized our sweet girl was coming so many weeks early as if it were yesterday. Her beautiful spirit and strength have changed our lives so profoundly and I am so grateful to all the family and friends that have kept her in their prayers. We are SO fortunate that she is thriving. We love you, Olivia.

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Inspirational Words for Mamas with Preemies

For the second time in less than 2 months, a status on my Facebook wall has popped up about a friend (or a friend of a friend) delivering early… like really early.  26 or 28 weeks early.

When these updates appear, I actually have a physical reaction.  A rush comes over me- knowing what we know about the challenges of Olivia’s early start, I have a small (albeit, very small) window of understanding into their situation.

I think about how small Olivia was when she was in the Special Care incubator struggling to breathe.  We were so blindsided by all the challenges associated with prematurity and slapped in the face with a potentially devastating newborn screening complication.  Then, I think about these tiny babies, who are just starting out on a long journey.  I just want to hug their mamas tight.  Thinking back on our experience, these words really inspired and comforted me.

The flow of these words reminds me of the famous “Everybody’s Free to Wear SUNSCREEN.”  Someone should make an inspiring video of wise advice for mamas of preemies.  In addition to what’s on this graphic, I would add a couple of other nuggets:

  • Some days, you are going to feel like a complete and utter failure.  Even in the worst moments, have confidence that you are doing the absolute best you can for your baby.
  • This will be HARD on your marriage.  If you pull together, it will bring you closer than you could ever have imagined.  Pull together.
  • No one can truly understand the heartache and uncertainty of this journey unless they themselves have traveled the path.  The things that can fly out of people’s mouths in an effort to “comfort” you can be utterly devastating!  Forgive them.  They can’t and don’t understand.
  • Prayer is SO POWERFUL.
  • It’s ok to feel like “this is not what I signed up for.”
  • Grieve your losses- especially, the loss of not being pregnant and the loss of the normal newborn experience.
  • Lean on your closest family and friends.  Accept their help, love, and prayers.

If these words strike a chord, here’s a PDF version: Preemie Inspiration Words

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Creative Ideas for Documenting Your Pregnancy

Thanks to Pinterest, there are SO many inspiring ways of documenting your pregnancy.  James and I decided to set up a chalkboard sign, similar to these pins (HERE & HERE) to watch my belly grow!

Documenting-Your-Pregnancy

I just love seeing how others have chosen to capture this special moment of time.  I’m especially liking how this mom decided to type her pregnancy highlights directly on her bump pictures.

…and how this mom-to-be combined sweet letters to baby with her weekly photos.

I also enjoyed seeing how this mother creatively compared the size of her growing baby with pieces of fruit/veggies.  (How cool is her bountiful “harvest” newborn photo?)

I’m saving this idea to create a beautiful pregnancy album for round 2!

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Our Experience with Hypnobabies

In my baby bump updates {HERE} and Olivia’s birth story {HERE and HERE}, I mentioned that James and I took a childbirth prep class called Hypnobabies.  I promised more information about the why/how/what of the course… so, here are my thoughts:

Hypnobabies

What is Hypnobabies?

Hypnobabies is a birthing program that teaches women deep relaxation techniques so they can work with their bodies to deliver their babies naturally and in a calm environment.  Medical grade hypnosis techniques are utilized to cope with the discomfort of childbirth.  Language also plays a very important role.  According to this philosophy, what you think/act/believe/say creates a set of expectations that inform your conscious reality.  Instead of using the label “contractions,” for example, Hypnobabies teaches women to call these sensations “pressure waves.”  If you stop to think about it, this simple switch creates a powerful mental shift.  The word “contractions” is inherently negative and restrictive…. not exactly the vibe you want to create when you are trying free your body of all tension so the muscles of your uterus can work cooperatively.  You can read more about the basic tenets of the program on THIS PAGE.

What did I like most about Hypnobabies?

I loved:

  • The Positive Pregnancy Affirmations CD:  Part of our home exercises included listening to a track of empowering statements about birth and the positive growth of our baby.  I always felt more confident about trusting my body and the process of natural childbirth after listening to this track.  Whenever I worked on a project, I often had this CD playing on a continuous loop in the background.
  • The Opportunity to Become an Informed Advocate for Myself and My Child: After taking this class, I realized how relatively little I knew about birth, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of various medical interventions.  Many of the research driven facts and statistics presented were mind boggling.  I wish every pregnant woman was equipped with this knowledge base.  On the whole, I believe the class curriculum helped us to analyze risks and benefits of different birthing scenarios and preferences.  I question EVERYTHING now.
  • The Positive Impact on Our Relationship: Hypnobabies is quite time intensive and requires the active participation of both the pregnant mama and doting dad to be.  Instead of becoming one more thing on a checklist, our childbirth prep evolved into a mental mindset and and an opportunity to bond over the pregnancy.

Hypnobabies-CD

What Skills Were Helpful During Labor?

In addition to teaching valuable hypnosis and relaxation techniques, Hypobabies also provides mamas to be with concrete practical suggestions on:

  • eating and drinking during your birthing time
  • trying different positions that utilize gravity to bring the baby down
  • using a birthing ball
  • how to make your vocalizations productive

Did You Experience Pain?

I can’t say that my birthing time was without pain and discomfort.  I freely admit that my pressure waves were incredibly intense at times.  My answer to this question has to be qualified though- we thought we had 7 more weeks to mentally prepare for Olivia’s arrival and practice the relaxation cues.  With Thanksgiving and traveling, James and I fell out of our established routine of practicing hypnosis scripts.  I remember vividly the chart I set up in the kitchen to track our progress.  We had just gotten back our rhythm and completed nearly a week and a half of solid effort on all “Hypnobaby” fronts (drinking water, exercising, stretching, eating tons of protein, and listening to scripts/affirmations) when my water broke.  I have often wondered how my experience would have been different if I had put in all the practice time I wanted to and expected to be able to devote to this endeavor.  That being said, I CAN’T IMAGINE going through this process without Hypnobabies.

Would You Recommend Hypnobabies to Other Mamas?

Yes!  Actually committing to a schedule of listening to scripts and practicing relaxation techniques is a huge investment in time.  Have you seen this PIN???  I thought this was such an interesting lens to view childbirth prep, especially considering the statistic from TheKnot on how many hours a typical bride spends planning her dream wedding.

Take-Aways from the Curriculum:

Hands down the biggest lesson I learned was to TRUST my body.  This confidence was absolutely invaluable, especially when there were so many outside forces stacked against us.  I had an incredibly empowering natural childbirth despite the medical team labeling our situation an emergency.  I also knew that no matter how it turned out, I wasn’t a failure.  I had done my due diligence, advocated for my child, and worked with my body.  Peace of mind is a beautiful thing.

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Olivia’s Birth Story: Part 2

This post is a follow-up to Olivia’s Birth Story: Part 1.

After arriving at the hospital and facing the reality that we were going to meet our baby almost 7 weeks early, here is how our story unfolded:

The doctor checked me at 1:30am and reported that I was already at 3cm, -2 station, and 70% effaced.  At this point, they also gave me the first of 2 steroid shots designed to speed up the baby’s lung development.  Throughout the night, I continued to have gushes of amniotic fluid.  It was such a weird feeling to have these uncontrollable leaks.  I was grateful to have giant disposable pads underneath me that could be changed out quickly.

Jen, our back-up doula, arrived at 3:30am.  When she entered the room, I was resting on the side of the hospital bed while James sat against my back.  The slight bit of counter pressure was lovely as my contractions intensified.  I wasn’t sure what to expect- another stranger was entering the scene.  A scene that was supposed to be an intensely private affair where I was surrounded by familiar and loving faces.  Another stranger was going to see literally all of me.  If I thought about anything for too long, I started to feel out of control.  Any fears that I might have had quickly dissolved.  Jen became an invaluable member of our team.  She jumped right in but didn’t try to take over.  We really appreciated her warm personality and all of her helpful suggestions.

Fairly early on, this thought train started to dominate my mind:  She is coming.  The baby is coming.  We have no idea what shape she will be in.  I’ve failed her.  The only thing I can do for her is have an unmedicated birth.  If I don’t take any drugs, they won’t be passed to her.  Maybe that will help her initial rough start.  Natural childbirth is the only thing I can give at this point.

At about 3:40am, Jen suggested that I eat a little something.  I had my first Popsicle and we discussed my current nurse.  Everybody in the room was looking forward to the upcoming shift change at 7am.  This nurse was nice but very “by the book.”  She wanted me laboring in the hospital bed and was hesitant to let me move around since my monitors might need readjusting.  Any food or water was kept to a bare minimum.

At some point, we asked if the hospital had a birthing ball I could use.  They found one fairly quickly; however, it was made for a giant!  My tip toes barely touched the bottom of the floor!  By 3:50am, Jen recorded that I was sitting on the ball by the edge of the bed with my Hypnobabies soundtrack playing in the background.  She would later tell me that I was quiet and focused.  By 4:05am, she noted that my waves were becoming more intense.

Birth Story1

At 4:15 am, I used the bathroom and had the beginnings of “bloody show.”  I actually remember being disappointed that there wasn’t more- I was hoping that things would start progressing even faster.  I was ready to get things moving!

James and I slow danced to ease the discomfort of the pressure waves.  I also ate a Luna bar from my mom’s secret stash.  My Mom returned to the hospital with a few items from home that I might need, including an assortment of energy and breakfast bars.  I don’t know how I would have made it through the next couple of hours without this food contraband!  We all laughed as I quickly scarfed down these energy bars- all eyes were on the door to make sure a nurse didn’t catch me eating!

James was able to doze from 5-8 am.  During this time, I listened to Jen’s music.  I absolutely needed something in the background to focus on.  After a few rounds of classical music, it was back to listening to the Hypnobabies scripts.  Both my mom and Jen tried to provide counter pressure on my back to relieve some pain as I sat on the birthing ball.  I definitely preferred a firm touch with no rubbing motion.  Jen encouraged me to keep from scrunching up my shoulders and creating tension in my body by placing her hands firmly on my shoulders and repeating the release cue (a Hypnobabies technique to relax quickly and fully).

7am: Ate another Popsicle and was introduced to our new nurse, Emily.  Emily was such a gift- she basically left us alone the entire time but was on call if we needed anything.  She didn’t get bent out of shape if the monitor lost its signal as I was changing positions.  She let Jen readjust my belts.

7- 7:40am- I preferred to stand at this point.  I quickly ate another contraband item: a breakfast blueberry bar.

James woke up shortly after.  I was so happy that he was able to rest but really glad that he was back in this with me.  We stood and slow danced through the waves.  It seemed like the contractions came closer together when I was standing.  Sitting on the birthing ball was a welcome break.  By 9:30, I was becoming nauseous and having a harder time relaxing during waves.

10:10am- My waves started to linger as I rested on the birthing ball.

10:45am- Internal exam revealed I am 7-8 cm, 100% effaced and a +1 station.  I was thrilled to have made this much progress and hoped that it would all be over soon.  In my mind, I thought our baby would be here by early afternoon.  One of my big fears of having a hospital birth was “the clock.”  I assumed I would be on a timetable and expected to make progress within a certain amount of time.  I imagined myself being glued to watching each second go by.  Nothing about our experience could have been further from this reality.  Yes, it was a long labor.  BUT, while we were in the zone, hours felt like minutes.  I never watched the clock once.

By this point, James was a master at providing counter pressure on my back during waves.  We resumed our routine of standing, dancing, and resting on the birthing ball.

Around 12pm, I received the second steroid shot to help mature our baby’s lungs.  I commented that the waves are “doozies!”  Jen noted that I started shaking from all the hormones surging in my body.

12:20-2pm- More of the same: Standing, slow dancing, and sitting on the birthing ball.  My parents picked up lunch in this time frame and James quickly ate a sandwich.

At 2pm, Jen suggested that I rest by lying on my side in bed.  It felt good to stop for a moment and just attempt to rest.  The waves continued to get stronger.  By 3:15pm, I was exhausted and started crying and quietly confided to James that I don’t think I can do this.  Jen noted that my contractions were very long at this point (several minutes) and I was shaky.

When an internal exam revealed I had just a lip of cervix left, Jen and Emily encouraged me to try the hands and knees position.  It seemed like I was so close to the pushing stage but so far away!  My contractions were incredibly intense by this point and I was moaning.  Jen reminded me to lower my voice to make the moans effective.  I spent 10-12 contractions in this position.  They wanted to be sure that the next time I felt the urge to push, I could.  This portion of time felt never ending.

At 5pm, I was complete and at a +2 position.

I pushed for approximately 51 minutes.  I didn’t know what to do at first.  The urge to push didn’t happen immediately for me and my early attempts weren’t quite effective.  I was also afraid that I wasn’t pushing fast enough.  I was so grateful that the doctor was patient and let me figure things out on my timetable.  Finally, at the tail end of one of the contractions, my body kicked in and the pushing became primal.  There was a huge difference between me attempting to push and allowing my body to push.  Now, as I think about this portion of my experience, Cindy Crawford’s birth story from the movie The Business of Being Born comes to mind.  She explained that she wished she had listened to her body’s cues and trusted its timing instead of just starting to push when she reached 10 cm.  Her body simply wasn’t ready and the first hour of pushing was completely ineffective.  I can completely understand this abstract concept now.  When your body kicks in, you can’t help but push.

For some reason, it seemed like the space between each contraction was enormous- these lulls were filled with anticipation.  I was grateful for the break but also dreading the next wave of pressure.  According to Jen and James, however, there was hardly any time in between these rounds of pushing (long enough to take a drink of water).

I do remember that there was an incredible amount of people in the room- James, our doula Jen, the OB Doctor, a set of nurses for me and another set of nurses to attend to Olivia.  I had quite a cheering section.

Do I remember the ring of fire?  Yes, it is very aptly named!  And, then, it was over so quickly.  All the discomfort, pressure, and pain literally evaporated when Olivia was born.  It really did feel like she came out in a gush – what a weird feeling!  James cut the cord quickly and they placed her in a warming bed to assess the state of her health.  I’m so glad someone in the room focused my attention on the fact my baby girl was crying.  I couldn’t really see anything from my position on the bed so hearing her cry was amazing.  The nurses allowed us to take a few precious photos before they whisked her away to the intensive care area.  They refused to let me hold her but I did get the opportunity to reach out and touch her tiny, perfect hand.  Prior to her delivery, I repeated to James several times, “no matter how this ends- natural delivery or c-section- promise me that you will stay with the baby.”  Unfortunately, this wasn’t possible when they took her from the room.  They wanted only medical personnel present to assess her breathing and create an immediate treatment plan.

My placenta came out quickly after.  I was surprised how strong the contractions were to expel this organ.  I relied on James, squeezing his hand, to help me cope as my body was literally shaking from all the hormone surges.  I had read that women can experience an emotional high after giving birth- full of incredible energy after an exhausting labor.  So true.  After all the medical personnel cleared the room, I felt really good despite the fact that I had just spent 20 hours in fixed concentration working through pressure waves.  And, then the emptiness set in.  We were so happy and so, so alone.  We weren’t snuggling with our precious newborn.  We never had the opportunity to memorize the tiny features of her beautiful face.  We completely skipped over the part where a new family bonds together.  Our sweet girl was literally fighting to breathe at the other end of the maternity wing instead of safely wrapped up in our protective arms.  It was all so surreal.

And, so begins another story: Olivia’s time in the Special Care Unit.  James was allowed to visit her approximately 45 minutes later.  I had to wait an additional 2 hours in “recovery”… quite possibly the longest 120 minutes of my life.

James' PerspectiveDid you think Candice was going into labor?

We were both really hoping that she had accidentally peed her pants.

Biggest surprise?

The umbilical cord was incredibly thick and strong.  Definitely not what I was expecting when I cut it.

Biggest bummer (aside from the fact she was born so early):

From the beginning, we had hoped to delay cord clamping so Olivia could receive all the stem cell rich blood in the umbilical cord.  When we realized this wasn’t an option, we asked that it be donated to our local Cord Blood Bank.  The medical team informed us that only blood from pregnancies week 34 and older was eligible for banking.  We missed the window by 3 days.  What a waste.

What was your mindset going into this experience? 

I was ready for a fight.  I expected the medical team to try and push various interventions.  I kept a close eye on Olivia’s heartbeat and was prepared to argue to keep at least some of our natural birth plan in place.  Fortunately, after the nursing shift change, we were left alone for the most part.  I knew Candice could birth our baby naturally if given the opportunity.

Second biggest surprise? 

Despite my exhaustion, hunger, and the fact my arm was incredibly sore from applying counter-pressure on Candice’s back- hours still managed to feel like minutes.  I expected to be bored for at least a portion of our time at the hospital, especially given that we were there for 20 hours concentrating on only 1 thing (no TV, no radio, and endless hours listening to Hypnobabies scripts).

Any Other Difficult Moments? 

When Olivia was born, I really wanted to go with her as they assessed her breathing.  I also wanted to be able to stay with my wife, who was starting another round of contractions to expel the placenta- both of my girls needed me.  It was definitely a helpless feeling not to be able to be in 2 places at once.  For better or worse, the hospital made the decision for me and I wasn’t allowed to go with Olivia.

 

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